The problems with scratches on the new iPod nano that hundreds of users reported during the past two weeks hasn’t turned out to be the brand, reputation and PR crisis for Apple that it could have been.
Thanks largely to a public acknowledgement that a batch of nanos did suffer from a manufacturing defect regarding the screens and that Apple would replace affected nanos for free, the company has emerged unscathed with its coolness factor intact.
Obvious lesson – if your product does clearly have some kind of defect, and your customers are loudly complaining, admit to it quickly and say what you’ll do to fix the problem. Apple did just that and defused the matter. Contrast this with the now famous Kryptonite bicycle lock case study (it is a case study now, I’m sure) from 2004. Or the Dell hell saga this year. Or the more recent "truth about the Land Rover Discovery 3" which is still developing.
One company got it right, three didn’t. And it’s nothing to do with blogs, no matter what anyone says – it’s to do with being honest and listening to your customers wherever they speak: blogs, chat rooms, the daily paper, down at the pub, wherever. And responding to those collective conversations in a way that shows your customers that you do actually care.
Of the four companies I’ve mentioned, I’d guess that Apple at least has read the social customer manifesto.
Of all its products, it is the iPod which has set alight Apple’s brand the most in recent years. And among the other computer-related items on show at the Apple Expo in Paris during the week, the iPod Nano still stood out. The star of this year’s Apple Expo was as slim and elegant as an after-dinner mint. Apple’s latest candy-covered iPod, the Nano, comes in two or four gigabytes.
While it has suffered some teething problems – Apple has agreed to replace one batch prone to scratched or cracked screens – it still symbolises everything the company stands for, says Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of worldwide product marketing. "Apple is a company that makes products that are very advanced technology and yet incredibly easy to use. And we have a tremendous number of engineering skills and talents to do this.
"And it’s the magic of how that all comes together to make a product work just the way a customer would want, that’s easy and that you love to have as a part of your life."